Paul Ryan, the oligarchy’s errand boy

The class war by the oligarchy continues apace.

The recent budget deal that was struck by Obama and the Democrats with the Republicans to finalize the budget for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year lavished some more gifts to the oligarchy, cutting spending for science, education, health care, and the environment while defense spending got an increase of $5 billion.

Once that was out of the way Paul Ryan, the Republican congressperson from Wisconsin who is chair of the House budget committee, presented the Republican budget plan for the future, which was dutifully slobbered over by the elites in the media and business circles as ‘serious, ‘brave’, and ‘thoughtful’ because it attacked the poor and the middle classes and gave even more to the oligarchy. In the bizarre world of elite media commentary, it has become the norm to be praised when you kick the powerless in the teeth and grovel before the wealthy.

Paul Krugman describes Ryan’s plan as essentially a fraud.

Last week, Mr. Ryan unveiled his budget proposal, and the initial reaction of much of the punditocracy was best summed up (sarcastically) by the blogger John Cole: “The plan is bold! It is serious! It took courage! It re-frames the debate! The ball is in Obama’s court! Very wonky! It is a game-changer! Did I mention it is serious?”

Then people who actually understand budget numbers went to work, and it became clear that the proposal wasn’t serious at all. In fact, it was a sick joke. The only real things in it were savage cuts in aid to the needy and the uninsured, huge tax cuts for corporations and the rich, and Medicare privatization. All the alleged cost savings were pure fantasy.

Matt Taibbi also excoriated Ryan’s proposal in his usual style.

Paul Ryan, the Republican Party’s latest entrant in the seemingly endless series of young, prickish, over-coiffed, anal-retentive deficit Robespierres they’ve sent to the political center stage in the last decade or so, has come out with his new budget plan.

Republicans, quite smartly, recognize that there is great political hay to be made in the appearance of deficit reduction, and that white middle class voters will respond with overwhelming enthusiasm to any call for reductions in the “welfare state,” a term which said voters will instantly associate with black welfare moms and Mexicans sneaking over the border to visit American emergency rooms.

The problem, of course, is that to actually make significant cuts in what is left of the “welfare state,” one has to cut Medicare and Medicaid, programs overwhelmingly patronized by white people, and particularly white seniors. So when the time comes to actually pull the trigger on the proposed reductions, the whippersnappers are quietly removed from the stage and life goes on as usual, i.e. with massive deficit spending on defense, upper-class tax cuts, bailouts, corporate subsidies, and big handouts to Pharma and the insurance industries.

Like Krugman, Taibbi takes to task the media for their willingness to declare the Ryan’s plan as ‘bold’, ‘courageous’ and ‘daring’, saying that “a huge part of the blame for the confusion and the national angst over our budget issues has to be laid at the feet of media a——- like [David] Brooks, who continually misrepresent what is actually happening with national spending.”

Brooks then goes on to slobber over all of Ryan’s ostensibly daring proposals, from the Medicare block grants to the more obnoxious Medicare voucher program (replacing Medicare benefits with vouchers to buy overpriced private insurance, which Brooks calls the government “giving you a sum of money” to choose from “a regulated menu of insurance options”).

What he doesn’t mention is that Ryan’s proposal also includes dropping the top tax rate for rich people from 35 percent to 25 percent. All by itself, that one change means that the government would be collecting over $4 trillion less over the next ten years.

The last ten years or so have seen the government send massive amounts of money to people in the top tax brackets, mainly through two methods: huge tax cuts, and financial bailouts. The government has spent trillions of our national treasure bailing out Wall Street, which has resulted directly in enormous, record profit numbers – nearly $100 billion in the last three years (and that doesn’t even count the tens of billions more in inflated compensation and bonuses that came more or less directly from government aid). Add to that the $700 billion or so the Obama tax cuts added to the national debt over the next two years, and we’re looking at a trillion dollars of lost revenue in just a few years.

No matter what, Ryan’s gambit, ultimately, is all about trying to get middle-class voters to swallow paying for tax cuts for rich people.

This cartoon by Tom Toles says it all.


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